Site Director Message

Thank you for your interest in the Chilliwack site of the UBC Family Practice Residency Program. I trust the information provided here will help you to consider Chilliwack as an option for your family practice residency. Chilliwack is a vibrant city of approximately 100 km east of Vancouver, BC. The hospital services an area of about 90,000-100,000 people. Family physicians form the backbone of the care model at our hospital. All family practice preceptors have hospital privileges and provide the majority of care for inpatients. When required, there is specialist support from internal medicine, general surgery, orthopedic surgery, urology, pediatrics, rheumatology, obstetrics, gynecology, ophthalmology, and ENT.

Chilliwack’s current hospital model provides residents with exceptional learning experiences. The absence of hospitalists and other specialty residents puts family practice residents at the forefront for clinical exposure and hands-on experience. Chilliwack also happens to be home to the first integrated clinical clerkship in BC. Its presence has enhanced resident training by introducing teaching and mentorship roles early on. We are constantly working to improve our program. With the growth of our community and subsequent increase in specialists, residents are able to receive high-quality core experiences in Chilliwack. An ongoing mission for residency excellence has created many learning opportunities that have allowed residents to stay locally for the majority of their FP training.

The family practice experience in Chilliwack is an elegant mix of broad-spectrum primary care and acute inpatient medicine. Longitudinal experiences are encouraged through half days back in the family practice office, which provides excellent continuity in patient care and resident education. In addition to great teachers, our family practice preceptors are leaders and pioneers in implementing EMR, advanced access strategies, and improved outpatient care in chronic-disease patients. Recently, the Chilliwack Division of Family Practice negotiated a unique inpatient hospital care program to support and maintain family doctors caring for their patients and orphan patients in hospital. This speaks to the local attitude towards maintaining full-spectrum general practice within a medium-size community. The majority of patients’ MRP are family doctors. The relationships within the medical community truly are collegial, supportive and cooperative. This creates an outstanding environment for family medicine residency training. This community will provide you with an amazing residency experience.

A unique feature of this program is the longitudinal hospital call and emergency medicine exposure. Hospital call over the two years provides residents with the opportunity to assess and manage patients who develop new medical problems during their hospital stay. Residents are also provided with regular emergency medicine shifts as part of their evening call schedule. Our graduating residents consistently inform us that these longitudinal experiences are key in acquiring the skills to practice wherever and whichever style of family medicine they choose.

An exciting recent addition to our program is a focus on addictions medicine. A core two-week rotation in Surrey has been implemented as well as adjusting the psychiatry rotation to maximize involvement in the addictions services of Chilliwack. The goal is to provide an opportunity for residents to gain skills that will enhance their ability to manage patients with addiction as their main diagnosis.

Although not all of our preceptors are currently practicing obstetrics, residents gain obstetrical experience in a variety of ways at our site. These experiences ensure that all residents obtain basic competence in obstetrics. For those residents planning to make obstetrics part of their future practice, they will typically seek out an additional elective experience to enhance their skills. We are excited to see the outcome of a newly implemented pilot project that creates better longitudinal obstetrical exposure.

Chilliwack is a welcoming medical community. The resident role in the community and hospital is well defined. This facilitates learning and a sense of belonging in the medical community. Residents are well received by patients and the community of Chilliwack.

Residents have come from Chilliwack from all parts of Canada. Consequently, every resident forms a close-knit bond that provides social and professional support to one another.

The community of Chilliwack and the surrounding area offers a large selection of recreational pursuits including hiking, mountain biking, fishing, skiing, rock climbing, a new cultural center, new YMCA and two city-operated recreational complexes. Residents are encouraged to enhance their experience by engaging in the many opportunities Chilliwack has to offer. I trust this information is helpful to make you consider Chilliwack as an option when choosing your family practice residency site.

Dr. Alison Henry , MD, CCFP

Lead Resident Message

As the first community based training site in UBC, Chilliwack has a strong history of preparing new doctors for full service family practice!  Our residents come from across the country, attracted by the reputation of our graduates; they are highly competent and confident in their abilities to practice in rural and remote communities across the country, and have great success in pursuing additional training if this is of interest to them.  If you want to be confident in the family practice office, emergency room, inpatient care setting, and the labour and delivery suite, you should seriously consider training in Chilliwack. Here are a few of the highlights of our program:

  1. Excellent learning environment

Chilliwack General Hospital is a friendly community hospital largely run by family doctors who have an extremely collegial relationship both with each other and with local specialists. We quickly operate on a first-name basis with the nurses, preceptors and specialists. The size of the catchment area (approximately 100,000) affords ideal volume and significant pathology while maintaining its community hospital feel, without the dilution of educational experiences that academic teaching centres can develop.

  1. Continuous emergency department exposure

This has always been a strong component of the program and currently includes regular evening emergency shifts throughout the two years, a month-long core emergency medicine rotation, a 2 week pediatric emergency rotation in Vancouver as well as elective opportunities (locally, at larger teaching centres, or internationally). Similar opportunities exist for longitudinal obstetrics for interested residents.

  1. Hospital Call

Another core component of our program is our hospital call. As one of the last hospital in the Fraser Valley  where family doctors care for their own in-patients, we gain a lot of training in in-patient care. Our program allows us to assume as much responsibility as we are willing and able to handle while providing reliable and quick backup for situations beyond our abilities. These are the principles behind our hospital call, when we are the one MD in-house responsible for the 200 admitted patients. This is the one of the most challenging parts of our program but is of huge benefit in preparing us for in-patient and emergency care in our future practice, offering development of independent management skills with back-up only a phone call or short drive away.

  1. Fewer learners and dedicated preceptors

Except for the odd elective student and occasional surgical resident, the only medical learners at CGH are 17 FP residents and six medical students. That means we are frequently first assist, regularly 1:1 with our preceptors, and always have first access to available procedures.  A large number of preceptors and family physicians in the community are graduates of the program. This is a testament to the collegial nature or our medical community, and to their dedication to seeing the residency program continue to be a highly respected and valuable training opportunity.

  1. Unique mandatory and elective rotations

Residents in Chilliwack have several very popular, unique mandatory rotations. We learn to provide evidence-based addictions care (including suboxone and methadone prescribing) in Surrey. We have a mandatory block at a high volume pediatric emergency department in Vancouver. We also have a month-long palliative care block allows for the development of in-hospital, in hospice, and at home palliative care skills.

  1. Spectacular recreational opportunities

The Fraser Valley offers incredible hiking, mountain biking, paddling, fishing, camping, and back-country skiing, with easy access to world-class ski resorts. If your taste runs more towards top-end shopping malls, theatre, and classy martinis, then Vancouver is merely 75 minutes away by car.

  1. Friendly, close-knit group of resident colleagues

Being a relatively small site, the group of residents in Chilliwack is very supportive. Residents moving from across Canada proudly claim to have “instant friends” within the first week of their residency, and become our chosen family in our new home. We regularly organize social nights, outdoor activities, weekend trips, resident retreats (call protected) to name a few, and have a great time together.

If you hate big-city traffic and crowds, you appreciate knowing and liking the people you work with, and you would like to be a confident full-service family physician, then Chilliwack is the place for you

Please feel free to contact us or the program should you have any other questions about our amazing program!

Dr. Mia Mitchell & Dr. Christine O’Keefe

Number of Residents: 8 CMG, 1 IMG
Location: Chilliwack, BC
Community: 92,000
Hospital: Chilliwack General Hospital
Distance from Vancouver: 103 KM

Curriculum Type: Partial Integrated
R2 Elective Time:
12 Weeks
Phone: 604-702-4757
Contacts: Director – Dr. Alison Henry/ Coordinator-Esther Chappell

Lead Residents: Dr. Mia Mitchelle & Dr. Christine Okeefe 


  • Chilliwack is 100 km from Vancouver with the majority of rotations in Chilliwack and other regional settings in the Fraser Valley
  • Nature of the clinical experience is to be close at hand in order to be able to participate in the opportunities when they arise
  • Residents live and become involved in the community because the region does not have the volume for a strict call system
  • All residents share hospital-based call, which gives maximum exposure to the hospital-based clinical work done by the general practitioner in the emergency room and after-hours urgent in-hospital care; a strong focus on Emergency Room Medicine
  • Resident/teaching focus as opposed to service-focus, many family physicians committed to teaching and involved in the program
  • Family practice-oriented rotations (e.g. Paeds is mostly office-based like our future practices will be)
  • Bed occupancy is 336 (140 acute care) and annually there are 39,322 (excluding ECU) patient days, 7,773 admissions, 6,366 in-and-out patient surgical operations, 52,000 visits to emergency and ambulatory care and 816 deliveries
  • Lots of hands-on experiences, responsibility, and collegiality
  • Academic half-days, while offering a core academic program, are resident-based and resident-driven
  • Ensure residents will have the skills, knowledge, aptitude, and attitude to practice in an urban, regional, rural or isolated practice.
  • The 12 weeks of elective time are flexible at the discretion of the site director and dependent on resident’s progression of learning. Site director may direct how elective time is to be used

Sample Rotation

4 weeks Block 1 Block 2 Block 3 Block 4 Block 5 Block 6 Block 7 Block 8 Block 9 Block 10 Block 11 Block 12 Block 13
PGY 1 FM FM IM Psyc OB Peds ER FM FM Pal Peds ER OB Surg ANA IM
PGY 2 Surg FM Rural Rural Addic Ped FM FM Elec Elec Elec Pal Surg Sub FM FM

Interview with a resident:

What do you enjoy most about the Chilliwack Site? 
Having searched the country for a residency program that would best prepare me for full spectrum rural practice, I have no doubt in my mind that Chilliwack was the ideal choice.  The location and size of the catchment area (approximately 90,000) provide the ideal balance of experience (with sufficient volume and pathology) with a more rural, family-medicine-oriented community hospital environment (without competition for learning opportunities or ready-access to specialists).  I feel confident that my experiences in my two years of training will prepare me for full-service family medicine including clinic work, caring for inpatients, ER, and obstetrics.  It is a real bonus that it attracts a great group of co-residents and is located in the stunningly beautiful Fraser Valley, where you can get your fill of hiking, biking, summer afternoons at the lake, and ready access to fantastic skiing!

What kind of learning opportunities are available at the Chilliwack Site? 
Some of our best learning occurs on overnight hospital call – other than the emergency doctor, the family practice resident is the only physician in the hospital at night and on weekends (with supervising physicians on call available by phone), so you really develop your diagnostic and resource management skills (for instance, does this patient need a CT scan tonight or can it wait until tomorrow?). It helps push up your confidence.

The longitudinal ER is also a real strength of the program, as it contributes to the development of skills and confidence with acute care.  Because there is ongoing exposure and practice of these skills, residents graduate confident to practice emergency medicine.  We are also very fortunate to have a department that supports recent grads transition to independent practice.

Most of the curriculum is arranged into blocks and everything is scheduled for you. There are 12 weeks of elective time in second year, which allows for tailoring of training to future practice goals.  You can access resources in Vancouver and the lower mainland, with accommodation available in Vancouver, so you are able to get a varied training experience that meets your needs and interests.

We also have weekly Academic Half Days, where we have presentations from local specialists, family physicians, and from our colleagues.  The focus is always on the application for family medicine, and content ranges from behavioral medicine to evidence-based medicine to case presentations and much more!

We are very lucky to have such engaged specialists who are highly involved in our teaching (orthopedics, general surgery, OB GYN, pediatrics, and psychiatry).  Not only are they invaluable on our core rotations, but make for friendly and educational telephone consults throughout our experience and are always available for a hallway or doctors lounge consult or conversation.

Is there a large service component to your residency?
The service at Chilliwack (primarily with hospital call) can be heavy at times, but we never feel used. Our preceptors talk about this with us beforehand. They are supportive and try to emphasize learning over service. We are proud of the service we provide and are really valued by the community. It is this independence and “service” that really allows us to optimize our learning.

Does it get fairly competitive with the other residents?
It’s actually the opposite situation – all of the residents help each other learn whenever we can. If we’re on call or in the emergency, we’ll contact the other residents when there’s an interesting case, and we regularly teach each other with presentations at Academic Half Days.  With only 8 residents each year, there are more than enough learning opportunities to go around!  We are also involved with the third year medical students doing their integrated clerkship in Chilliwack, however, this is in a teaching role on overnight call and competition for procedures or experience is rarely an issue on rotations.

Our group is close and we socialize a lot together. There’s quite a lot to do in Chilliwack: there are movie theatres, restaurants, lots of outdoors activities and a strong arts community. We hike up Mt. Cheam together every year, we have regular social gatherings and weekend ski trips, a book club, and we have two call-protected retreats during the year, so we do much more than just work together!

Is the community very welcoming of residents?
People here are very welcoming. This residency has been a part of the community for over 20 years, patients and office workers are very happy to have a teaching hospital in their town, and being “just a resident” is rarely, if ever, an issue.

Professionally, we have very strong teams. We get a lot of interprofessional support and there is a strong sense of collegiality with nursing staff, students, and other allied health professionals.

What kind of facilities are available in Chilliwack?
Chilliwack General Hospital had a large renovation in 2010. We have a gorgeous, brand new Emergency Department, a new Ambulatory Care Department, Pediatric Clinic and Short-stay beds, Orthopedic Clinic, and an in-hospital Primary Care Clinic with a Seniors Clinic, a Nurse Practitioner, and potential for other interesting teaching clinics.

Two weeks of pediatrics are also available to be done at the BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver for NICU (Intermediate Nursery) experience, with accommodation in a (gorgeous!) basement apartment provided.

The apartment in Vancouver is typically also available for electives, making these learning opportunities much more accessible.

What traits do you need as a resident to really appreciate the Chilliwack Site?
You definitely need to be a self-directed learner who is responsible and accountable for yourself. Independent learners thrive in this site – if you’re not excited to learn, you really won’t get the most out of the experience.

You also need to really enjoy living in a non-urban environment. Chilliwack has a lot of amenities and is close to the city, but it’s not the city.  The community has the overall feel of being smaller than its population size by virtue of the people who live there – they truly are a community.

What do you think is the biggest strength of the Chilliwack Site?
We have the greatest proportion of residents who ultimately practice rurally of the BC family medicine programs (according to our Site Director!), and the reputation of Chilliwack residents resonates across the country.  I believe this is attributable to the many ways in which our program affords graded development of skills in independently assessing and managing acute care patients in addition to comprehensive community care.  The ongoing ER and hospital call are integral to this.

We also have the highest short-term retention of residents. Many of our graduates stay in Chilliwack for about six months to a year after they finish the program, or settle here for long-term practice. They do locums and Emergency shifts to help transition into practice, and the community is exceptionally supportive of this.

One of the community programs being offered by residents is the “mini-medical school.” We offer free information sessions on pertinent health-related topics to the community.  This was a resident-initiated program that has continued for years now.  We also have community engagement efforts newly initiated in Agassiz (a rural community 25 minutes away) regarding youth suicide prevention.


Get to Know Chilliwack: 

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